Did Bear Bryant block Birmingham’s aspirations?

Alabama Coach Paul Bear Bryant
Alabama Coach Paul Bear Bryant

Watching UA win another national championship game was exhilarating!

But there’s been something I’ve always wondered.

Many of you young folks may not remember, but Birmingham used to be called ‘The Football Capital of the South.”

So Sunday when I read an article in The Birmingham News titled, “Hot-Lanta”—how the ‘Capital of College Football’ finally landed its biggest game, it almost made me cry.

It said, “For years, Atlanta sports and tourism boosters have made a strong case for the city as the “Capital of College Football,” citing the passionate fans who live here, the major corporate sponsors based here, the star players recruited from here and the big games played here.”

It is truly crushing how far Birmingham sports has fallen.

Instead of being recognized as ‘The Football Capital of the South,’ we’re now debating whether to invest $30 million into Legion Field, which at one time was one of the premier football venues in America.

And to add insult to injury, next year we’re losing SEC Media days to Atlanta.

What went wrong?

I’ll be the first to admit that what I’m about to say may not be true–but it’s something I’ve heard most of my adult life.

There was a time when Birmingham may actually have been seriously considered as a contender for an NFL franchise.

I have no idea if that was a realistic expectation, but I’ve been told many times that Bear Bryant was against Birmingham having an NFL team because he thought it would be detrimental to his program.

I would imagine that anyone in Coach Bryant’s position would have had those concerns so I’m not faulting him—but if the story is true, it did have its consequences for Birmingham.

What an NFL team could have meant to Birmingham

There’s no way to know how a professional sports team might have impacted Birmingham. But an NFL team would have given us a place on the world stage–and it would have greatly increased our visibility and ranked us as a major city.

It also might have helped bring our often segmented region together to support a nationally recognized professional sports team.

But that didn’t happen and we will never know.

I’m a UA graduate and a fan of Alabama football. So if I’m wrong about Coach Bryant, please accept my apologies.

Alabama football remains strong.

But the Georgia Bull Dogs don’t seem to have been harmed by the Atlanta Falcons.

Take a few minutes and read the study commissioned by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham featuring options for regional collaboration. Click here  

And Roll Tide!

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter. There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com

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2 thoughts on “Did Bear Bryant block Birmingham’s aspirations?”

  1. Probably a trickle down, as I’ve always heard the vast profits from football help fund the lesser profitable sports plus a reduction in the contribution to academics.

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